Decibels are the unit used in measuring the level of sound, but they’re also used as a shorthand for environmental noise.

How loud is too loud?

As we wrote in our Make Listening Safe in School blog, 85 decibels in an 8 hour time span leads to hearing loss, and the louder the sound gets, the amount of safe exposure time will decrease. 90 decibels in 4 hours can cause damage, as can 95 in 2 hours, 100 in hour, 2015 in 30 minutes and so on.

To put a name to the numbers, normal conversation or the dishwasher running could measure about 60 dB, while other appliances (lawnmowers, power tools) can reach about 90 – 100 dB. Music – played loudly through headphones – can reach 100 dB.

Everyday Life

Prolonged exposure of everyday noise can cause hearing loss, especially for those who continually play their music too loud, go to a lot of concerts, or do a lot of yard work without the proper hearing protection.

Others, who’s job may require them to be around loud noises (such as heavy machinery or airplanes), are often at an even increased risk, since they aren’t able to of limit their presence around loud, continuous noise.

For both groups though, steps can be taken to prevent hearing loss. If you CAN limit your exposure, steps should be taken to do so. Take breaks between loud noises, if possible. If you listen to a lot of music, try not to go above the 50 percent volume mark. For those who use headphones to drown out ambient noise, noise cancelling headphones can often help at a much lower volume.

If you work around loud noises, earplugs are a must. Over the counter varieties that expand in your ear canal or even custom made earplugs will save you a lot of money and time down the road, not to mention your hearing.

Further Resources

If you’re interested in noise canceling headphones, you can always compare brands and ratings at

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